Authorities seized a ship last week after finding more than $1 billion worth of cocaine onboard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced this week.
The ship is the largest ever seized by CBP, and the 20 tons of cocaine on board is also a record amount, according to Casey Durst, CBP’s field operations director in Baltimore.
The cocaine has a "street value" of about $1.3 billion, CBP said.
The MSC Gayane, which is owned by JPMorgan Asset Management and chartered to Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), had "nearly 20 tons of cocaine hidden" onboard, U.S. Attorney William McSwain of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said in a statement Monday.
“A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented — but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented," McSwain said. “When a vessel brings such an outrageous amount of deadly drugs into Philadelphia waters, my Office and our agency partners will pursue the most severe consequences possible against all involved parties in order to protect our district — and our country.”
The ship was raided June 17 after sailing from Freeport in the Bahamas. Before that it had stopped in Panama and Peru after starting its voyage in Chile. It was due to sail on to Europe after the U.S. stop, authorities said.
"MSC remains grateful to the government officials in the U.S. for their proactive work and has offered its continued support, building on a longstanding track record of good cooperation with the authorities," MSC said in a statement this week.
“MSC is assisting and cooperating with the authorities as required and the company is not the target of any investigation.”